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The Role of the Graphing Calculator in 2021 and Beyond
03-03-2021, 06:59 PM (This post was last modified: 03-03-2021 07:02 PM by Solver.)
Post: #1
The Role of the Graphing Calculator in 2021 and Beyond
This is a topic that I've thought about after scrolling through some past threads here. Earlier, there was a discussion about the future of HP calculators, and things were looking grim on that front due mostly to the fact that HP is not really concerned, at least at the moment, with their calculator division. And the cold hard truth is that they have a point, even with the pandemic and increased computer demand aside.

So, the real questions then are, what exactly is interfering with the calculator market in general? And perhaps most importantly, are graphing calculators like the HP Prime even still relevant?

The first question has two major answers for it I think. The government-mandated TI monopoly (at least in the US), and the gigantic threat of modern smartphones. Now, to be fair, I think the only reason TI even still has such a deal is due to sheer complacency. In the list of all the issues that require government attention, eliminating some old-as-hell calculator deal doesn't exactly rank very high, even if people now agree it's pretty damn silly. But who knows when we'll see any action on this, if at all, and will it even matter anymore when there is?

Which brings us to our second and last question. Compared to smartphones, are graphing calculators merely just a more clunky and locked down version of a smartphone running a CAS? Now, it is true that there isn't really an app yet (besides of course the HP Prime Pro emulator app) that rivals both the convenience and power of the Prime, but regardless of the current state of the market, such an app absolutely could be written. And then what will the Prime have to compete once that happens?

Well, one thing that a dedicated graphing calculator has over a phone is the ability for it to be in an education setting while disallowing any cheating. OK, fine. But what about in a professional setting? Why would an engineer pull out a graphing calculator when they could just do a calculation on their desktop/laptop/phone?

This is a really damn tough one, and guys, no matter what I can think of, there's no purpose a conventional graphing calculator serves that a smartphone couldn't serve just as well, even if it doesn't currently serve them at the moment or serve them well.

No, perhaps the answer and the true role of a graphing calculator is revealed only if we begin to really branch out and think of graphing calculators not as we did in the past, but as small-scale mass-produced calculation, sensor data collection, and automation devices. What if you could make any HP Prime act in place of a microcontroller with just a bit of configuration? What if we had a device like a Raspberry Pi, but with much more of the software already written out for it to interface with all kinds of hardware while also having a screen and an input method or two and also able to write and load programs for it on the fly while also being able to serve as a quick CAS?

Honestly, I think this is the way. The device that kids use to learn with also serving as a professional and industrial device in a workplace setting. That's damn powerful. And that may just be the only future that graphing calculators can really excel in now.
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03-03-2021, 07:54 PM
Post: #2
RE: The Role of the Graphing Calculator in 2021 and Beyond
I don't think phones should not be considered a "gigantic threat" but possibly a great opportunity. The three things that keep a smartphone from being a real portable computing device are 1) they are by nature locked down to ensure they are reliable at being a phone, 2) no keyboard with good tactile feedback, 3) limited I/O capability.

The first problem is an issue for my main phone, but I'm beginning to get a collection of older devices that could be repurposed--unlocked from their phone duties and converted into small computers. I've packed around multiple computers and calculators for years so having a separate device is not a problem for me.

The second problem may be a matter of taste, but it would not be hard to fashion a good external keypad to use with the phone connected by wire or Bluetooth. I've also been looking at similar solutions to the third problem, having an I/O board connected to the phone could easily provide that utility for all sorts of devices and would not be that hard with what is easily available in the maker market.

The only question I have is whether some professional level calculator app will be released before I get to the point that I have an old phone capable of running a desktop suite of scientific software.
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03-03-2021, 09:29 PM (This post was last modified: 03-03-2021 09:38 PM by Jean-Baptiste Boric.)
Post: #3
RE: The Role of the Graphing Calculator in 2021 and Beyond
(03-03-2021 06:59 PM)Solver Wrote:  So, the real questions then are, what exactly is interfering with the calculator market in general? And perhaps most importantly, are graphing calculators like the HP Prime even still relevant?
I'd say Covid-19 would be an obvious answer, but that's not the full story.

Computer peripherals are in high demand due to the explosion of work-from-home. HP Inc. is simply following the money because every company had to do damage control because of the annus horribilis that was 2020. The HP Prime is a relatively mature product that can be put on hold for other priorities, at least for a while. The lack of true Python support is however starting to become a major handicap in education because every competitor supports it now.

I believe graphing calculators still have a purpose in 2021. Lockdowns showed that lots of poor families still are under-equipped w.r.t. computers, tablets and Internet access. A graphing calculator, especially one used, is cheaper than any laptop (except for bargain-price junk that no one should ever touch even with a 10-foot pole), is extremely low-maintenance and can free up the single Internet-connected computer appliance that three siblings and two parents are fighting over. Granted, these families are not in the market for a brand new HP Prime G2, but there is definitely a market for this until computers everywhere are as ubiquitous as in Star Trek.

TI actually announced a TI-82 Advanced Edition Python (https://www.cemetech.net/forum/viewtopic...highlight=) very recently, a cheap graphing calculator with Python and a color screen, which is probably spot-on for this. That is, if you can afford something more than a dried-up potato from the last century.

As for whether or not the HP Prime itself is still relevant, that's a harder question to answer. There are reasons why you'd want it (long battery life, portability, the HP SmartStream 410 expansion for data acquisition, user experience, low maintenance...), but also reasons why you'd prefer a laptop or tablet (commonality, power, screen size, full-blown keyboard...). Ultimately, only the market can answer that. Who knows, maybe 15 years from now there will be a new graphing calculator from SwissMicros that will be heralded as the second coming of Jesus here by all the HP-48/49/50 aficionados left out by the HP Prime.

(03-03-2021 06:59 PM)Solver Wrote:  Which brings us to our second and last question. Compared to smartphones, are graphing calculators merely just a more clunky and locked down version of a smartphone running a CAS? Now, it is true that there isn't really an app yet (besides of course the HP Prime Pro emulator app) that rivals both the convenience and power of the Prime, but regardless of the current state of the market, such an app absolutely could be written. And then what will the Prime have to compete once that happens?
A purpose-built product that is accepted by exam boards. If it was to evolve into something more, I believe there is a market for a tricorder.

Seriously, the HP SmartStream 410 might be a nice piece of hardware in a lab (I don't know, I've never come across one), but imagine a handheld variant that depending what you plug into could be used as a multimeter, oscilloscope, OBD2 probe, network/serial terminal... A general-purpose engineering device with a CAS engine built-in usable on the field if that makes sense. But that sounds more like something Agilent would do rather than modern-day HP Inc. Whether a ruggedized smartphone/tablet with specialty software and USB-C dongles or a purpose-built device would be better is left as an exercise.

(03-03-2021 06:59 PM)Solver Wrote:  What if you could make any HP Prime act in place of a microcontroller with just a bit of configuration? What if we had a device like a Raspberry Pi, but with much more of the software already written out for it to interface with all kinds of hardware while also having a screen and an input method or two and also able to write and load programs for it on the fly while also being able to serve as a quick CAS?
What you're describing is basically the home computers of the 80's. The modern high-volume incarnation would be the Raspberry Pi 400, which only lacks a screen.
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03-03-2021, 09:56 PM (This post was last modified: 03-03-2021 10:16 PM by StephenG1CMZ.)
Post: #4
RE: The Role of the Graphing Calculator in 2021 and Beyond
The way that Casio, HP and TI are all competing in an increasingly challenging calculator market reminds me of the microcomputer marketplace in the 1980s.
The BBC micro, Commodore and others, each with an incompatible Basic and a lack of portable software applications. The standardisation on the IBM PC led to much easier software development and led to the PC dominating the microcomputer competition.

Perhaps something could be done to amalgamate the calculator marketplace and standardise the competing calculators. Whether by having a standard hardware specification or a standard software language (Python?), or exam script that they could all support.

Whilst I can understand why each are tempted to retain their own unique selling points, just look at where the BBC microcomputer, Sinclair Spectrum and IBM PC are now.

Is there really a reason not to standardise?

On a specific hardware point, I am finding the limited screen resolution increasingly limiting - some method of displaying high definition would be welcome, whether on-calculator or by linking to a Hdmi or phone.

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03-04-2021, 05:35 PM
Post: #5
RE: The Role of the Graphing Calculator in 2021 and Beyond
The only real difference between a real calculator and a calculator app on a phone is a physical keyboard. While I certainly prefer the physical keyboard, those of us that do are a small and ever-shrinking group. As I have said before, this is simply too small of a market for a large corporation to care about.

Swiss Micros is doing a good job of serving this market, and there are potential opportunities for competitors as long as they are realistic about the size of the market. At this point we can't rationally expect a company the size of HP to expend a large amount of time on calculator development.
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03-04-2021, 08:50 PM (This post was last modified: 03-04-2021 08:51 PM by Thomas Radtke.)
Post: #6
RE: The Role of the Graphing Calculator in 2021 and Beyond
If they weren't this expensive, they would be extremely useful in school, especially in physics classes and especially now when students have limited access to experimental setups and nearly no collaborative work due to the pandemic.

I've teached math and physics in secondary school last year and since I had no good laptop whose batteries would last a working day, I did everything with pencil, paper and a 15C.

It's all different when you have your office with a PC and all software you need. So, calculators still have their niches.
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03-05-2021, 01:34 AM (This post was last modified: 03-05-2021 01:35 AM by Han.)
Post: #7
RE: The Role of the Graphing Calculator in 2021 and Beyond
A smartphone is light years beyond a calculator in terms of computing power. However, the lack of a keyboard means a good chunk of the screen real estate would be (temporarily?) taken up by a virtual keyboard. Then there is the issue of academic integrity when one has the internet and instant messaging at one's fingertips. In an ideal world where those issues are in fact non-issues, students would simply speak into their phones, which connect to a Maple or Mathematica server licensed by the school, and get their results in seconds and thus eliminate the need of a keyboard.

The HP Prime and its contemporaries provide a great middle ground between computations by hand and having desktop/server mathematical software at one's fingertips.

Regarding professionals, I'm don't really see much of a market for graphing calculators given that smart phones have apps for things like data collection, computations (both symbolic and numeric), and can easily interface with other devices due to common interfaces like USB or WiFi. And if smartphones are insufficient, there are tablets, laptops, and of course ordinary desktops. Those graphing calculators would have to lean more towards duplicating features of a smartphone, at which point they may as well just be smartphones. They only "feature" that smartphones these days do not have are dedicated physical keyboards, which -- depending on use-cases -- may make a difference for professionals.

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03-05-2021, 06:15 AM
Post: #8
RE: The Role of the Graphing Calculator in 2021 and Beyond
Bonjour
Je voudrais apporter ici un autre point de vue, j'ai utilisé une calculatrice graphique mais surtout programmable au travail pour vérifier la valeur de sondes de température ou la sortie de convertisseurs et lorsqu'il faut monter au dessus d'une chaudière par une échelle à crinoline la calculatrice est beaucoup mieux qu'un pc portable.
Quand au téléphone portable l'autonomie joue en faveur de la calculatrice et il est possible d'être au téléphone avec quelqu'un et de sortir la calculatrice pour vérifié une valeur ou quoi que ce soit.
Enfin toutes les calculatrices identiques comme les pc quelle horreur ! je veux bien éventuellement un langage commun comme le python en plus du langage propriétaire.
J'aime acheter une nouvelle calculatrice et la découvrir, apprendre son nouveau langage et on pourra me donner toutes les bonnes raisons du monde d'utiliser autre chose rien à faire.
(Espérant que la traduction est fidèle).

Hello
I would like to bring here another point of view, I used a graphical but especially programmable calculator at work to check the value of temperature probes or the output of converters and when it is necessary to climb above a boiler by a ladder with a crinoline, the calculator is much better than a portable pc.
When on a cell phone the autonomy is in favor of the calculator and it is possible to be on the phone with someone and take the calculator out to check a value or anything else.
Finally, all identical calculators like pc's what a horror! I would like to eventually have a common language like python in addition to the proprietary language.
I like to buy a new calculator and discover it, learn its new language and they can give me all the good reasons in the world to use something else nothing to do.
(Hoping the translation is accurate).

Translated with http://www.DeepL.com/Translator (free version)

Sorry for my english
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03-05-2021, 01:07 PM
Post: #9
RE: The Role of the Graphing Calculator in 2021 and Beyond
Any device in this physical world created and dedicated to a specific task are
superior to imitations, provided that the thing are high quality made and equipped
with the best of the best. Besides this, a phone manufacturer would go bankrupt
if he started imitate a dedicated handheld calculator. It would require of him to
rise a whole new department handling software. Or pay an outsider for handling it.
If he dare do start it, the price for it at the retail end would be that high, that no
sales ever got going.

Right now are needed a decent high-end calculator. Errors on existing ones should
really be given priority and discussed until the manufacturer correct all of them.
If he won’t listen, and fast enough – if he did listen – then he may be compared
to the WW automobile manufacturer, who sold cars having false fuel measures.
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03-05-2021, 02:35 PM
Post: #10
RE: The Role of the Graphing Calculator in 2021 and Beyond
(03-05-2021 01:07 PM)essen Wrote:  Right now are needed a decent high-end calculator.

Perhaps the WP-43S running on the SwissMicros hardware platform will ultimately fill the bill, if they manage to complete the firmware development. It will be relatively expensive, but will be worth every penny to high-end users.

Jake
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03-05-2021, 08:03 PM (This post was last modified: 03-06-2021 08:50 AM by essen.)
Post: #11
RE: The Role of the Graphing Calculator in 2021 and Beyond
(03-05-2021 02:35 PM)Jake Schwartz Wrote:  
(03-05-2021 01:07 PM)essen Wrote:  Right now are needed a decent high-end calculator.

Perhaps the WP-43S running on the SwissMicros hardware platform will ultimately fill the bill, if they manage to complete the firmware development. It will be relatively expensive, but will be worth every penny to high-end users.

Jake
--------------------------------------------------------------------------

Correction:
Looked into the wrong image. The screen size of WP 43* is Ok.

es

I had a look at it for a week since. Its screen are too small.
Its keyboard doesn’t look like a dedicated programming calculator.
I need a screen window and an input command like Prime and HP 48G(x),
50G. That’s about the only made right on Prime. After making a bunch
of small trial programs on Prime with the intention being able to decide,
whether it pay off going ahead converting my 48 cad programs to Prime,
I now realize; This isn’t a way to go. I’m surprised the many inconsistency
and errors that has shown up running these trial programs. Almost all
originating from the separation of memory. The problems by this separation
have confused the software team developers. This confusion also made
errors even when programming within same memory area (HOME or CAS).
Very important build in functions, as IFERR, IFTE, type(), TYPE(), EQ() and
IF-clauses behave differently when in interaction with each other in a
program. Having a Print(); Print(“Run it only in CAS”); WAIT(); This will
result the rest of the program going into a mess and fail. Even placing
a RETURN(); after WAIT(); will be ignored. Same happens with a
MSGBOX() in a program.

Also the hardware fails. After a time programming, This rocker wheel
starts to wriggle under ones thumb.

No doubt, this programming language are being developed by students
at a University. I guess a handful of these now grown up people
serves here as helpers. Otherwise, this calculator would not survive.
The Prime input() works well. But are confined to the HOME memory.
The trouble with this memory separation takes no end until the
HP-concern ditch this separation. And come up with a replacement.

Conclusion; no serious programming can be done with this faulty Prime.

Es
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03-12-2021, 12:27 AM
Post: #12
RE: The Role of the Graphing Calculator in 2021 and Beyond
As far as calculators go, I think the only hope for them comes from purpose built custom hardware, capable of fast hardware-based - high precision FP math and virtual modes for exploring by doing things like graphical rotations and outputs for driving 3D printers among other transducers. The GP processors being used today are fine for that, general purposes, and can do anything in software, but at the expense of power consumption and latency for high performance computing. HP became successful by developing custom calculator platforms, like Saturn.

The programming model must change as well. It should be possible to enter programs at a very abstract level rather than the low level programming required of current and past products. Even programming languages such as Python are too syntax driven. I want to be able to tell the calculator what I want done and where the data is to do it. I envision the calculator would have an intermediate operations format so that, if necessary, I can debug how its doing things and intervene to do midcourse corrections. Complex modes are secondary in my mind as they are primarily needed to develop mathematical models. I want a fast (1000x faster than a phone), precise number cruncher which is what calculators are good at doing. Communicate via Bluetooth to any peripherals and storage.

I don't see this happening but one can hope.
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03-13-2021, 01:04 PM
Post: #13
RE: The Role of the Graphing Calculator in 2021 and Beyond
(03-12-2021 12:27 AM)Amafan Wrote:  As far as calculators go, I think the only hope for them comes from purpose built custom hardware, capable of fast hardware-based - high precision FP math and virtual modes for exploring by doing things like graphical rotations and outputs for driving 3D printers among other transducers. The GP processors being used today are fine for that, general purposes, and can do anything in software, but at the expense of power consumption and latency for high performance computing. HP became successful by developing custom calculator platforms, like Saturn.

The programming model must change as well. It should be possible to enter programs at a very abstract level rather than the low level programming required of current and past products. Even programming languages such as Python are too syntax driven. I want to be able to tell the calculator what I want done and where the data is to do it. I envision the calculator would have an intermediate operations format so that, if necessary, I can debug how its doing things and intervene to do midcourse corrections. Complex modes are secondary in my mind as they are primarily needed to develop mathematical models. I want a fast (1000x faster than a phone), precise number cruncher which is what calculators are good at doing. Communicate via Bluetooth to any peripherals and storage.

I don't see this happening but one can hope.

"As far as calculators go".
Not my wishes.That would be to much expectation for calculators. Just a decent
handheld calculator - with a decent programming language without many serious
errors - that will do. The creators of the Prime language had not sufficient experience to know what they were working with. Just a normal experience among youngsters.: "Those old gigs. Let us show how to do it".
That seems to be the way this world are turning for the time being. And has done, for the last couple of generations. Even got worse since unscrupulous importers
of the scrap wares from the far eastern. -These importers certainly are among us
older ones.
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04-10-2021, 06:50 PM
Post: #14
RE: The Role of the Graphing Calculator in 2021 and Beyond
(03-03-2021 06:59 PM)Solver Wrote:  Why would an engineer pull out a graphing calculator when they could just do a calculation on their desktop/laptop/phone?
  1. Form factor
  2. Tactile keypad
  3. Battery-powered

Quote:No, perhaps the answer and the true role of a graphing calculator is revealed only if we begin to really branch out and think of graphing calculators not as we did in the past, but as small-scale mass-produced calculation, sensor data collection, and automation devices.
I thought the HP-41C/CV/CX did all this.
Quote:What if we had a device like a Raspberry Pi, but with much more of the software already written out for it to interface with all kinds of hardware while also having a screen and an input method or two and also able to write and load programs for it on the fly while also being able to serve as a quick CAS?
Can I get that with Java onboard?
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04-10-2021, 07:50 PM (This post was last modified: 04-10-2021 07:56 PM by Vtile.)
Post: #15
RE: The Role of the Graphing Calculator in 2021 and Beyond
Do not underestimate the importance of the life span of the calculator vs. some app. The first one might serve 20..40 years of use, the latter might survive 5 years before dying out of market or get so much development that it is not the same calculator anymore.

Also there should be considerable evolution of size reduction for calculators, these things are not a pocket calculators at all, while it could be possible to do. The color display etc. are nice but not necessary. Look at DM42 hardware, with a bit keyboard redesign and LiPo it could serve as HP50g, with form factor of pocket calculator. Did I mention the battery life span, the important thing is that you can forget the calculator for 6 months and then use it without first charging it. Also the graphing feature is nice addition, ie. nice to have when some odd ie. sizing things are involved. It is handy to see visually see where the slopes of the function are to approximate the best fit operation point of some device. Not to mention the possibility to use full screen menus and instructional graphics for eg. equation libraries.

Also the "peer review" of calculators is hugely important, that is the wide and professional enough user-base to find out the bugs and poor mathematical errors.

There is also companies that are so let say cheap that you will not have company access to any form of mathematical tool above Excel. Been there done that.
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04-11-2021, 10:24 PM
Post: #16
RE: The Role of the Graphing Calculator in 2021 and Beyond
Graphing calculators are going to be around for a while. I anticipate that they will be more streamlined.

Calculators have several advantages:
* A device made for mathematical calculations
* Portable programming device (at least for Basic and Python, I hope they would try again with C++, at least with a simple version of it)
* Scientific modules and peripherals made for the calculators
* You don't have to worry about it going on the internet and getting calls (big point for teachers and professors)
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04-11-2021, 11:22 PM
Post: #17
RE: The Role of the Graphing Calculator in 2021 and Beyond
On the other hand, you do have to worry about connectivity, and your niche emulators disappearing or breaking - whereas popular phones will be around for a couple of years.

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04-12-2021, 05:02 AM
Post: #18
RE: The Role of the Graphing Calculator in 2021 and Beyond
(04-11-2021 11:22 PM)StephenG1CMZ Wrote:  On the other hand, you do have to worry about connectivity, and your niche emulators disappearing or breaking - whereas popular phones will be around for a couple of years.
Don't forget there are community emulators that are actively in development and are even better than first party ones. Smile
Phones get dated very quickly compared to calculators. A TI-83 Plus from 1999 can still run many programs written for the TI-84 Plus CE in 2021. It's very difficult to find another common device from '99 that can still run modern programs.

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04-12-2021, 04:01 PM
Post: #19
RE: The Role of the Graphing Calculator in 2021 and Beyond
(04-11-2021 10:24 PM)Eddie W. Shore Wrote:  Graphing calculators are going to be around for a while. I anticipate that they will be more streamlined.

Calculators have several advantages:
* A device made for mathematical calculations
* Portable programming device (at least for Basic and Python, I hope they would try again with C++, at least with a simple version of it)
* Scientific modules and peripherals made for the calculators
* You don't have to worry about it going on the internet and getting calls (big point for teachers and professors)

I humbly disagree with your choices for programming languages. Python is marginal on a small device with a non-QWERTY keyboard. BASIC and C++ would be a nightmare. A language that is only practical on a PC with a full-size keyboard and display is not very useful for a pocket size device. This is one of the main reasons why I continue to use the 50g (and EMU48) more than the prime.
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04-12-2021, 05:33 PM
Post: #20
RE: The Role of the Graphing Calculator in 2021 and Beyond
(04-11-2021 10:24 PM)Eddie W. Shore Wrote:  Graphing calculators are going to be around for a while. I anticipate that they will be more streamlined.

Calculators have several advantages:
* A device made for mathematical calculations
* Portable programming device (at least for Basic and Python, I hope they would try again with C++, at least with a simple version of it)
* Scientific modules and peripherals made for the calculators
* You don't have to worry about it going on the internet and getting calls (big point for teachers and professors)

Good points! No distractions. Graphing calculators like the excellent HP PRIME are more powerful yet easier to use than an app on a phone. I also still use Pocket Computers for calculations with BASIC and C. Especially BASIC is much quicker for "throw away" programming. These machines don't run out of batteries for weeks and do not turn off or go to sleep when you're in the middle of working on a problem.

(04-12-2021 04:01 PM)John Keith Wrote:  I humbly disagree with your choices for programming languages. Python is marginal on a small device with a non-QWERTY keyboard. BASIC and C++ would be a nightmare. A language that is only practical on a PC with a full-size keyboard and display is not very useful for a pocket size device. This is one of the main reasons why I continue to use the 50g (and EMU48) more than the prime.

Yep. Surely Python and C require a full keyboard to get anything done. CASIO's "BASIC" does not require a full keyboard to enter programs quickly, but their BASIC dialect(s) are not standard so there is a learning curve. Python and C have non-trivial learning curves.

Just my 2c:

The loss of BASIC as a simple and easily accessible programming language is regrettable. Calculus textbooks used to have BASIC programs, so learning BASIC was "automatic" with the math stuff. And it was fun too, because the graphics and sound commands are all built-in. No stupid libraries to figure out and install on every damn machine.

With that in mind, Python is great, but NOT a replacement of what BASIC was able to do to encourage programming as a way to solve problems. I wonder why so few people can actually properly code? In 2021 Johnnie still cannot code! He just learned to copy-paste Python examples from the web. Real programmers do not just program, they solve problems in whatever programming language works for them the best. So was intrigued when I recently read that Python is the most popular programming language, apparently by the frequency of Google searches for Python tutorials. Hmmm... I wonder why? Smile

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